‘A phenomenal result’: Eton College confirms Middlesbrough sixth form plans

Eton College has confirmed that it will start the process to open a sixth-form college in Middlesbrough.

The new site will be free to attend and will help young people who have performed well in their GCSEs to achieve the A-Levels to attend Oxbridge and other elite universities.

It is hoped that the college will welcome its first intake of 240 students in 2025 – Star Academies and Eton College will bid in the next wave of the Department for Education’s Free School Programme.

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Head Master of Eton, Simon Henderson, said: “We are delighted to be bidding to open these colleges in Dudley, Middlesbrough and Oldham.

“Our partnership with Star Academies is intended to ensure that the success of the project is greater than the sum of its parts.

“While our contexts may be different, our values ​​are aligned and together we are committed, for the long-term, to sharing our educational vision and delivering outstanding educational opportunities to young people in these areas.”

If the bid is successful, the college will be part of Star Academies which runs both primary and secondary schools in the North and West Midlands in areas that face significant challenges.

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: “Eton College in Middlesbrough. It’s incredible to win the support and backing of the world’s most famous school – a phenomenal result.

“Thank you to Eton College and Star Academies for putting your faith in Middlesbrough and offering us your skills and resources to help boost the life chances of local youngsters – and put our town on the map.

“Central Middlesbrough is becoming a huge magnet for education and building a better life and this new addition to our brilliant colleges and excellent university makes us stand out across the North East of England – brilliant.”

The curriculum will be based on the London Academy of Excellence in Newham, which is in one of the most deprived boroughs in the capital, yet the sixth form is sending 33 students to Oxbridge.

All of the students who join will start by taking four A-level courses with the option to drop down to three.

Star Academies chief executive Sir Hamid Patel CBE said: “This marks an exciting milestone in our partnership.

“By harnessing our combined wealth of educational and operational expertise, we are confident that our colleges will produce extraordinary, transformative outcomes, not only for their students but for the wider communities too.

“Our mission has always been to change lives for the better and to open doors for young people to access the best opportunities, but these colleges will have a wider, positive impact throughout the communities of Dudley, Middlesbrough and Oldham.

“They will become anchor institutions that make a significant contribution by playing a leading role in addressing skills shortages and helping to drive up standards in education.”

‘Wrong, dangerous and offends against all sense of good governance’

The announcement of the plans has not come without controversy.

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald criticized Mr Preston yesterday for a “gross discourse” for not notifying him of the plans after accusing him of speaking about the proposals to businesspeople.

He added: “To hear of such a plan second hand is unacceptable. It is imperative that the full facts and audit trail of such a proposal are made public as a matter of urgency.”



Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald

In a letter to the mayor, Mr McDonald said: “It seems that this issue has been the subject of some informal discussions with relevant parties, but I am not aware of this having been considered ahead of your announcement in any way whatsoever by the council , be that by councilors or officers.

“That is simply wrong, dangerous and offends against all sense of good governance and practice.”

He went on to add: “I have to say this proposal, as I currently understand it, is alarming and a great many questions arise in terms of the impacts and consequences for educational provision, the regeneration strategy for Middlehaven as well in respect of the finance, land ownership, and good governance.”

Mr McDonald recently called for Eton College to lose its charity status on Twitter, prior to knowing about the plans.

‘Is petty pride about being looped into discussions more important?’

However, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Simon Clarke has said that local politicians should be welcoming the proposals.

He added: “The news that Eton College, one of this country’s best schools, is going to be involved in a new academy state school in Middlesbrough is something our local politicians ought to celebrate and support, rather than attack.

“We should all want to improve outcomes in a town where too many young people’s life chances are limited by poor educational attainment.

“Andy McDonald and the Labor Party in the town ought to be getting behind a project that’s all about social mobility, not firing off letters about how ‘dangerous’ it is.”



Picture of Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland
Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

He went on to add: “There is no threat here, nothing to criticise, and it’s an entirely negative and counter-productive response from Labour.

“Whose side are they on in the battle to offer a better education for kids in Boro? Is petty pride about being looped into discussions more important?

“The bottom line: this story symbolizes the wider battle for Teesside’s future. Ambition, pride in place, plans for a better future. Or just relentless negativity, resistance to change and more of the same?”

Mr Clarke also said that a culture change needed to happen if improvements were to be made in Middlesbrough and the new college would help young people to benefit from the “thousands of jobs that are being created thanks to the hundreds of millions of investment the Government is making locally.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “It’s fantastic that after months of work Eton are set to open a new sixth form free school in Middlesbrough.

“This partnership with Eton will exclusively benefit high achievers in Middlesbrough from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and will be truly transformational to their life chances, providing a unique opportunity to access to the very best universities and to get into a good quality, well paid job.

“Delivering new aspiration to Middlesbrough is crucial to addressing low levels of educational attainment and huge challenges that young people face in getting into good quality job opportunities. Our high achievers from disadvantaged backgrounds deserve a school on their doorstep that will help them achieve their full potential .

“I want young people from Middlesbrough to aim high and this new academy is a welcome step towards getting them into the amazing opportunities they deserve.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said that students who perform well from disadvantaged backgrounds deserve a school that will help them succeed.

He added: “It’s fantastic that after months of work Eton are set to open a new sixth form free school in Middlesbrough.

“This partnership with Eton will exclusively benefit high achievers in Middlesbrough from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and will be truly transformational to their life chances, providing a unique opportunity to access to the very best universities and to get into a good quality, well paid job.

“Delivering new aspiration to Middlesbrough is crucial to addressing low levels of educational attainment and huge challenges that young people face in getting into good quality job opportunities. Our high achievers from disadvantaged backgrounds deserve a school on their doorstep that will help them achieve their full potential .

“I want young people from Middlesbrough to aim high and this new academy is a welcome step towards getting them into the amazing opportunities they deserve.”

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